March 20, 2012
“Let’s just hope this isn’t true …” –KTRN
A new report reveals that US forces continue to send detainees to prisons where torture is practiced, despite NATO’s promise to suspend prison transfers last September.
The report carried out by the Afghan Independent Rights Commission and the Open Society Foundation documents numerous cases of torture in Afghan detention facilities between February 2011 and January 2012.
The document has credible evidence in 11 recent cases where practices such as “beatings, suspension from the ceiling, electric shocks, threatened or actual sexual abuse, and other forms of mental and physical abuse” were commonplace. Researchers also discovered widespread violations of prisoners’ rights were in evidence, “including the right to counsel and family notification.”
According to the study, these techniques are “routinely used to obtain confessions or other information.”
Abuses were found to be committed both in Afghan National Police facilities (ANP) and the National Directorate of Security facilities (NDS).
Moreover, the document presents evidence that even after NATO announced it would suspend prison transfers in September, “some US forces or personnel continue to transfer individuals to NDS Kandahar.” The risk of torture for the detainees upon arrival was “widely acknowledged.” In spite of this fact, “CIA or other US intelligence officials” may be sending prisoners to banned facilities.
August 4th, 2011
By: Nedra Pickler
A judge is allowing an Army veteran who says he was imprisoned unjustly and tortured by the U.S. military in Iraq to sue former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld personally for damages.
The veteran’s identity is withheld in court filings, but he worked for an American contracting company as a translator for the Marines in the volatile Anbar province before being detained for nine months at Camp Cropper, a U.S. military facility near the Baghdad airport dedicated to holding “high-value” detainees.
The government says he was suspected of helping get classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces enter Iraq. But he was never charged with a crime and says he never broke the law.
Lawyers for the man, who is in his 50s, say he was preparing to come home to the United States on annual leave when he was abducted by the U.S. military and held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.
Court papers filed on his behalf say he was repeatedly abused, then suddenly released without explanation in August 2006. Two years later, he filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington arguing that Rumsfeld personally approved torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and controlled his detention without access to courts in violation of his constitutional rights.
Chicago attorney Mike Kanovitz, who is representing the plaintiff, says it appears the military wanted to keep his client behind bars so he couldn’t tell anyone about an important contact he made with a leading sheik while helping collect intelligence in Iraq.
“The U.S. government wasn’t ready for the rest of the world to know about it, so they basically put him on ice,” Kanovitz said in a telephone interview. “If you’ve got unchecked power over the citizens, why not use it?”
The Obama administration has represented Rumsfeld through the Justice Department and argued that the former defense secretary cannot be sued personally for official conduct. The Justice Department also argued that a judge cannot review wartime decisions that are the constitutional responsibility of Congress and the president. And the department said the case could disclose sensitive information and distract from the war effort, and said the threat of liability would impede future military decisions.
But U.S. District Judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said U.S. citizens are protected by the Constitution at home or abroad during wartime.
“The court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad,” Gwin wrote in a ruling issued Tuesday.
“The stakes in holding detainees at Camp Cropper may have been high, but one purpose of the constitutional limitations on interrogation techniques and conditions of confinement even domestically is to strike a balance between government objectives and individual rights even when the stakes are high,” the judge ruled.
In many other cases brought by foreign detainees, judges have dismissed torture claims made against U.S. officials for their personal involvement in decisions over prisoner treatment. But this is the second time a federal judge has allowed U.S. citizens to sue Rumsfeld personally.
U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen in Illinois last year said two other Americans who worked in Iraq as contractors and were held at Camp Cropper, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, can pursue claims that they were tortured using Rumsfeld-approved methods after they alleged illegal activities by their company. Rumsfeld is appealing that ruling, which Gwin cited.
The Supreme Court sets a high bar for suing high-ranking officials, requiring that they be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and must have clearly understood their actions crossed that line.
The case before Gwin involves a man who went to Iraq in December 2004 to work with an American-owned defense contracting firm. He was assigned as an Arabic translator for Marines gathering intelligence in Anbar. He says he was the first American to open direct talks with Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who became an important U.S. ally and later led a revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida before being killed by a bomb.
In November 2005, when he was to go on home leave, Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents questioned him about his work, refusing his requests for representation by his employer, the Marines or an attorney. The Justice Department says he was told he was suspected of helping provide classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces attempting to cross from Syria into Iraq.
He says he refused to answer questions because of concern about confidentiality, and the agents handcuffed and blindfolded him, kicked him in the back and threatened to shoot him if he tried to escape. He was then transferred to an unidentified location for three days before being flown to Camp Cropper.
For his first three months at Camp Cropper he says he was held incommunicado in solitary confinement with a hole in the ground for a toilet. He says he was then moved to cells holding terrorist suspects hostile to the United States who were told about his work for the military, leading to physical attacks by his cellmates that left him in constant fear for his life.
He claims guards tortured him by repeatedly choking him, exposing him to extreme cold and continuous artificial light, blindfolding and hooding him, waking him by banging on a door or slamming a window when he tried to sleep and blasting music into his cell at “intolerably loud volumes.”
He says he always denied any wrongdoing and truthfully answered questions but interrogators continued to threaten him. Both sides say a detainee status board in December 2005 determined he was a threat to the multinational forces in Iraq and authorized his continued detention, but he says he was not allowed to see most of the evidence against him. Documents the government filed with the court only say he is suspected of a crime, without providing details.
April 25th, 2011
The Raw Story
By: Kase Wickman
A massive leak of more than 700 military documents, attributed to infamous transparency group WikiLeaks, was released Sunday night. Much of the new information deals with detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, records that begin immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks and range to 2009, including documents relating to 172 prisoners still held at the controversial detention facility.
Here are seven shocking revelations about Guantanamo Bay and the practices there.
One hundred twenty-seven “high risk” prisoners remain at Guantanamo Bay, but almost as many “high risk” prisoners have been released to other countries or freed, despite being described as “likely to pose a threat.” Of the 600 detainees known to have been transferred out of the prison since 2002, 160 fell under the “high risk” categorization, according to NPR. At least two dozen transferred “high risk” prisoners have been linked to terrorist activity since their Gitmo exit, including two Saudis who became leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“There’s a group there that we all agree never gets let out, and then there’s the rest,” Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) said of Guantanamo detainees at a recent congressional hearing. “As you close on that number of folks who should not ever be let go, then you run the risk of letting somebody go who shouldn’t be.”
Officials aren’t sure what they’re doing. In 704 leaked documents assessing detainees, the word “possibly” appears 387 times, “unknown” 188 times and “deceptive” 85 times. Two conflicting committees from the Department of Defense worked at the facility and clashed frequently over how to classify prisoners’ threat levels and the quality of information they shared.
While some “high risk” prisoners have returned to terrorism, still others have become U.S. allies. A former Gitmo detainee whose files identify him as “a probable member of al-Qaeda,” Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda bin Qumu, is now a key figure on the rebel side of the Libyan revolution, a leader of a rebel brigade in the northern part of the country. When Qumu was captured in Pakistan shortly after 9/11, he was considered an enemy of the United States. Now, he and the U.S. have a goal in common: unseat Gaddafi.
Instead of getting closer to catching Osama bin Laden, the documents show that the focus has broadened from catching key al-Qaeda operatives, noting information about other foreign operations. One captive was sent to Gitmo so officials could glean any information he had on the Bahraini court, and another was interrogated about any knowledge he had of Uzbekistan’s secret service.
Officials took note of every possible piece of evidence, in hopes of building mosaics of information — even evidence as trivial as origami art. McClatchy reports:
Guards plucked off ships at sea to walk the cellblocks note who has hoarded food as contraband, who makes noise during the Star Spangled Banner, who sings creepy songs like “La, La, La, La Taliban” and who is re-enacting the 9/11 attacks with origami art.
Officials noted that information from some unstable prisoners may be faulty or untrue, but used it anyway. Yasim Mohammed Basardah, a detainee who gave information about 60 other prisoners, was noted as being unreliable, and his file stressed that information he shared should be independently verified. However, he was also given a “high” intelligence value, and his threat level was lowered from high to medium in exchange for his cooperation. He was resettled in Europe in 2010. According to the documents, eight prisoners have revealed information about 235 others.
Suspects were nabbed and shipped to Gitmo because they wore cheap watches. A specific model of watch — a Casio style released in the 1980s — was suspected to be used as a timer by al-Qaeda operatives. People in Afghanistan were seized and sent to the detention facility because they were wearing the watches, but most have been quietly released because of a lack of evidence.
November 4, 2009
By Patricia Zengerle
The White House denied on Tuesday that any H1N1 flu vaccine is now going to terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, heading off controversy over swine flu prevention priorities.
“There is no vaccine in Guantanamo and there’s no vaccine on the way to Guantanamo,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said at his daily briefing, although a Pentagon spokesman said detainees at the base could receive it late this month.
After Gibbs’ comment, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said detainees at Guantanamo would receive the vaccine only after active duty troops, deployed U.S. contractors and civilians and civilians working for the Department of Defense.
Americans have been lining up for the vaccine to protect against the H1N1 swine flu virus, which has killed at least 1,000 Americans and infected an estimated 5 million.
Given a shortage of the vaccine, clinics have restricted its distribution to those in high-risk groups, but even many of those have been unable to receive it.
A Department of Defense spokesman had said the vaccine would be offered to about 200 Guantanamo detainees, prompting criticism from some conservative politicians and commentators.
“Gitmo doesn’t have any vaccine and is not expected to receive any vaccine for some time, probably late November at the earliest,” Whitman said.
“Because there are limitations on supplies of H1N1 vaccine, we’ve established priorities… But we do have an obligation to provide appropriate medical care to everyone in our custody.”
Whitman said receiving H1N1 vaccine is voluntary for detainees, in other words, many may opt not to receive the vaccine.
The United States has ordered up to 250 million doses of H1N1 vaccine from five companies — MedImmune, a unit of AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis, Australia’s CSL, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.